TRIPOLI, Lebanon: A televised news conference Monday by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem prompted residents of the neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh to protest what they said were fabrications by the Syrian media.
They were responding to footage broadcast by Syrian Television, aired as part of Moallem’s response to the Arab League’s decision Sunday to endorse economic sanctions against Damascus. The footage showed what were said to be fighters from Tripoli taking part in armed actions against the Syrian government during a months-long popular uprising.
The residents gathered at the Abu Ali River intersection for an impromptu sit-in, during which they said the footage in question dated back three years and was unconnected to events in Syria.
One of the people whose picture appeared in the footage, Dani Danash, said “this propaganda is proof of the bankruptcy of the regime.”
“As you can see, we’re here in Tripoli, and specifically Bab al-Tabbaneh, and not in Homs, or Jisr al-Shughur,” he said, referring to centers of unrest in Lebanon’s neighbor.
The grainy footage showed armed men walking what appeared to be an orchard and carried the label “footages for the terrorists.”
“This is completely untrue, and a falsification of reality,” Danash said. “These pictures have been on Facebook since 2008 and were taken in an agricultural part of Tripoli, during battles that took place between residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.”
He was referring to one of the flare-ups of tension that pitted the predominantly Sunni and Alawite neighborhoods of the city.
Abu Omar Shabb, another individual whose image appeared in the footage, decried the “fabrication” as an attempt to divert attention from what is taking place in Syria.
“We’d like to caution that despite the fact the footage is false,” Shabb said, “it’s putting our lives in danger by people who are cooperating with the Syrian regime, and even internationally, since we might be held accountable” for taking part in the violence in Syria.
“This isn’t fair – we have absolutely nothing to do with it, either way.”
Sheikh Musa Qarhani said Syrian authorities were recycling old footage from 2008, which appeared on Facebook, to convince people foreigners were taking part in the Syrian uprising.